The shape I'm in: Pat Falvey, explorer

Pat Falvey says he can resist everything but temptation. If he goes out for a night drinking, he can over indulge at times.

Whenever explorer Pat Falvey wants to go for a short walk, he heads out to his back garden and strides up a mountain.

“I’m based in the beautiful Gap of Dunloe, one of the most scenic places in Ireland. It’s at the base of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, which has six of the highest mountains in Ireland. 

"I can get up and down one of the [smaller] mountains within an hour,” says the father of two adult sons.

Though the mountains are in his blood — he has twice conquered the seven highest summits in the world — a conversation with one of his sons 10 years ago put him on a different path. 

“When I hit 50, my son came to me and said ‘we really love you and see what you’ve achieved but you were away a lot, so can you spend a bit more time around?’.”

Recognising himself in the lines of Robert Service’s poem The Men That Don’t Fit In, he made a “decision to fit in” with his family. 

“Now my greatest joy is my grandchildren — Jack aged three and a half and Lily aged eight months. Their love is so simplistic.

“Every time I see Jack, he puts his hand up — in the same way I have on the cover of my book You Have the Power — and says ‘I have the power, granddad’.”

* Pat Falvey – Everest, Antarctic & Beyond Endurance Thursday, March 30, Cork Opera House

What shape are you in?

For 60 years of age, I’m in great shape. At this stage, I’m carrying a few injuries and I have to be careful about those. 

I keep fit by leading at least five treks a year into the places that I love, including Everest Base Camp, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus and Machu Picchu. 

Outside of that, I keep fit by walking a few times a week. If I’m on the hill, I’ll do between four and seven hours. 

Yesterday, I was in the gym at 6pm and at 6.30am this morning.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

What I have is the ‘see-food’ diet. I see it and I eat it! I used to eat up to 9,600 calories a day during my expeditions, so I was burning up three kilojoules a day — the same energy as running three marathons. 

Now I’m trying to cut back but I’m finding it hard. I eat fish five times a week and steak two times a week.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

I can resist everything but temptation, as Oscar Wilde once said. If I go out for a night drinking, I can over indulge at times.

What would keep you awake at night?

More than 50 climbers I’ve climbed with over the years are dead, so what keeps me awake at night is thinking that I cannot make a mistake. I work in one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Once I have a plan, then I will sleep.

How do you relax?

I walk. In fact, my work is my pleasure. If it’s a case that I’m stressed, I walk further. 

If it’s a case that I’m not so stressed then I might take a short walk. I don’t see any difference between work and relaxation.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Ger McDonnell, Richard Weber, Chris Bonington, Alan Hinkes, Rolf Bae, Pemba Gyalje Sherpa and Tom Crean — all top polar explorers and mountaineers.

What’s your favourite smell?

Lavender in a bath. I also love the smell of juniper incense in Nepal. Families burn it outside the house in the morning and in the evening — it’s part of the Buddhist philosophy.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I was very vain in my early years and I got a hair transplant aged 30. I found out very quickly that it was the stupidest thing I’d ever done — so I now shave my head because I prefer myself bald.

When is the last time you cried?

When my granddaughter Lily was born in August. I realised I was so lucky to be alive to see a new generation and also I felt that with my own kids, I’d missed a lot of stuff during their upbringing through what I did. 

Life has given me a chance. Now my greatest ambition is to become the best grandfather that I can be.

What traits do you least like in others?

Procrastination, disloyalty and bullshit.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I’ve conquered my least-liked trait, which was arrogance. I am now more mellow. Part of the arrogance came from self-belief in myself.

Do you pray?

I’m an agnostic but I’m a Catholic, too. I do pray when I get into danger and I pray for others if it’s a case they have a problem. My mother says I’m a cowardly Catholic. But I’m playing the odds.

What would cheer up your day?

A phone call from my grandson Jack.


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